'Longbourn' puts spotlight on 'Pride and Prejudice' servants

Feb. 8, 2013 at 1:13 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A novel that re-imagines "Pride and Prejudice" from the point of view of the main characters' servants is to be published this year, its British author said.

"Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature," writer Jo Baker told the BBC.

"But as I read and reread her books, I began to become aware that if I'd been living at the time, I wouldn't have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Aware of that English class thing, 'Pride and Prejudice' begins to read a little differently."

Austen's classic romance turned 200 last week. It has spawned countless screen adaptations, as well as literary spinoffs and mysteries involving its characters.

Baker's "Longbourn" follows the courtship of a footman and housemaid who work for the wealthy Bennet family in their home in the English countryside.

Their story parallels the romance of "Pride and Prejudice" principals Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

"I sent it out last week," Clare Alexander, Baker's agent, told the BBC about "Longbourn." "[U.S. publisher] Knopf bought it Monday. On Wednesday, it was bought by Doubleday in the U.K. By Thursday, the film rights had gone. By Friday, we had signed up two foreign translations."

The exact release date of the book was not announced. Its publication comes as another British property -- the TV series, "Downton Abbey" -- is the subject of international fascination.

Set about a century after the events of "Pride and Prejudice," the show follows the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and the men and women who serve them in their country mansion.

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